Final Four 2022: Kansas catches fire from deep vs. Villanova in 81-65 victory

Bill Self, Kansas

David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji combined for 26 points as Kansas pushed past Villanova 81-65 in the national semifinals.

David McCormack scored 25 points and Ochai Agbaji added 21 points as Kansas controlled from tipoff until the final buzzer in an 81-65 win over Villanova in the national semifinals.

The Jayhawks raced out to a 10-0 start with a pair of 3-pointers by Agbaji and two at-rim makes by McCormack and Bill Self‘s team never looked back. Kansas finished the evening 13-of-24 on 3-point attempts in one of its most efficient outings of the season.

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Playing without second-leading scorer and all-Big East honoree Justin Moore, Villanova chipped into Kansas’ lead but could never get over the hump. Just three of Villanova’s 65 points came off the bench as the lacking depth proved to be too much to overcome Saturday night.

“You know Villanova would make a run and we just held on and responded,” Self said during the postgame press conference.

Even after the Jayhawks raced out to a 38-19 advantage with 4:52 to go in the first half, Villanova didn’t go away. The Wildcats promptly responded with a 10-0 run before Mitch Lightfoot pushed the KU lead to 40-29 at the break.

The pace and shooting picked up considerably in the second half. A Caleb Daniels 3-pointer got Villanova within single digits at 50-42 with 14:10 to go, kicking off a flurry of offensive firepower by both teams.

While Agbaji and McCormack led the team with 46 combined points, Christian Braun was Kansas’ closer. Villanova made it a two-possession game with 6:10 to go but Braun had a handful of answers. He hit a runner and followed it up with a twisting 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock to ignite to Jayhawk crowd. Another triple just 72 seconds later pushed the lead back to 16 and prevented any late drama.

“We always came back and answered … Everybody’s locked in,” Braun said.

With the victory, Kansas will play on the final night of the season for the first time since 2012 when the Jayhawks fell to Kentucky in New Orleans.

“We didn’t come to Kansas to play in the Final Four; we came to win a national championship,” Braun said.

Kansas will aim for its fourth national title Monday night.